People trapped in an abusive relationship hear, “You’re so much better than this! Why are you staying?” I knew I was better than my experience. I knew I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. Yet, when someone pointed that out to me, I wanted to dig in my heels and fight to stay.
I knew I was better than how he treated me, but I thought my abuser was also a better man than how he behaved. I saw us as equally hurting. I thought we both were trapped in an abusive relationship.
I Thought We Were Both Trapped In The Abusive Relationship
I thought he must be in extraordinary pain to be able to hurt me in those ways – to say those things to me, to pretend to mean what he said, to use his hands to back up his words. I thought he and I were both in pain.
I deserved better treatment, but he and I were the same. He deserved a chance to find happiness. He deserved love, kindness, respect, … true love. He deserved my love (despite giving me disrespect and hate) because we were the same.
When someone told me I was better than him, I recoiled like a striking snake. The logic made no sense. How could I be better than my equal? They, the ones who encouraged me to leave my abuser, became my enemy.
As I began recounting the great things about my abuser to my new enemy, the better memories from our honeymoon periods took precedence. I reinforced to myself why I stayed as I tried to convince my enemy of the same thing. My logic was not the same as my enemy’s. What I did made perfect sense to me. Giving up on him meant giving up on me.
I Was A Good Person Trapped In An Abusive Relationship
I was loyal, loving, willing to be strong through the tough spots. I could see past the bad to the goodness in my abuser. I would not only survive, but pull him up out of his internal sea of hate. I owed him that because I promised him that I would never leave him. I promised to love, honor, and cherish; not use, turn-tail, and ridicule.
My sense of loyalty and the belief that he and I were equals (both effects of brainwashing) kept me trapped in our abusive relationship. I stayed because I felt that to leave indicated a betrayal of who I was. My abuser already betrayed me in many ways. I didn’t want to betray myself, so I remained loyal to him. Ensnared by who I am as much as what he did to me, I remained trapped in an abusive relationship for almost two decades.
I Didn’t Hear Right When Trapped In My Abusive Relationship
It seems as if, in my married days, I spoke a different language from my family and friends. When they told me I deserved better and offered a way out, I didn’t hear what they wanted me to hear. I heard “I don’t recognize you anymore. You’re a mess. You need help. You’re doing it wrong. There’s something wrong with YOU.”
I guarantee that’s not what they meant. Yet I picture myself saying those same well-meaning words to domestic abuse victims today. I want them to see what I see in them. But I’m not speaking their language. I am their enemy.